Space Science News

Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 09:58

Most of the universe's heavy elements, including the iron central to life itself, formed early in cosmic history and spread throughout the universe, according to a new study of the Perseus Galaxy Cluster using Japan's Suzaku satellite.


Monday, October 28, 2013 - 13:14

In the early morning hours of Oct. 18, NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) made history, transmitting data from lunar orbit to Earth at a rate of 622 Megabits-per-second (Mbps). That download rate is more than six times faster than previous state-of-the-art radio systems flown to the moon.


Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 09:31

Planets are formed in disks of gas and dust around nascent stars. Now, combined observations with the compound telescope ALMA and the Herschel Space Observatory have produced a rare view of a planetary construction site in an intermediate state of evolution: Contrary to expectations, the disk around the star HD 21997 appears to contain both primordial gas left over from the formation of the star itself and dust that appears to have been produced in collisions between planetesimals - small rocks that are the building blocks for the much larger planets. This is the first direct observation of such a “hybrid disk”, and likely to require a revision of current models of planet formation.


Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 09:28

Astronomers including Niall Deacon of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) captured an image of an unusual free-floating planet. As the object has no host star, it can be observed and examined much easier than planets orbiting stars, promising insight into the details of planetary atmospheres. Can an object with as low a mass as this have formed directly, in the same way that stars form? Independent observations by a group led by MPIA's Viki Joergens suggest that this is the case: They discovered that a similar but much younger free-floating object is drawing material from its surrounding just like a young star.


Monday, October 7, 2013 - 10:05

Astronomers have detected cold streams of primordial hydrogen, vestigial matter left over from the Big Bang, fuelling a distant star-forming galaxy in the early Universe. Profuse flows of gas onto galaxies are believed to be crucial for explaining an era 10 billion years ago, when galaxies were copiously forming stars. To make this discovery, the astronomers – a team led by Neil Crighton (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and Swinburne University) – made use of a cosmic coincidence: a bright, distant quasar acting as a "cosmic lighthouse" illuminates the gas flow from behind.


Friday, September 27, 2013 - 15:54

Three months after the flight of the solar observatory Sunrise – carried aloft by a NASA scientific balloon in early June 2013 -- scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany have presented unique insights into a layer on the sun called the chromosphere. Sunrise provided the highest-resolution images to date in ultraviolet light of this thin corrugated layer, which lies between the sun's visible surface and the sun's outer atmosphere, the corona.